"Why are you looking at me like that. What's wrong?" she asked, almost playfully.
He didn't respond and remained fixed there, his jaw slack and his mouth slightly open. She reached down and drew his small face into her hands. He could smell the nicotine on her fingers as she tilted his head up to her to meet her eyes. Those eyes were blue and wet and alert and adoring. Her grip on his cheeks made it difficult to smile but he managed to. She grinned back. He cloaked his mounting fury behind a black curtain of restraint. Ripples of anger began to seep from the core of his being. He marveled at the way he was able to fool her into believing what she wanted to believe. What she needed to believe. Secretly, quietly, he wanted to reach up and scratch her face with the swiftness of a hungry cat. He wanted to feel her flesh beneath his claws like damp clay. He wanted pull her hair out from its roots and parade around their living room and scream at the top of his lungs and pound his tiny fists against her face until it caved in and was no longer. His chest began to heave inside from the energy needed to bury his seething contempt for his mother.
"Now what's wrong with you? Why do you have to do this right before I have to go to work? Be a big boy and get yourself ready for school today, okay." She skied her finger down the slope of his nose, over his dry lips and down to his chest. "You," she said, and he looked up at her again. "You...... are......... a............ very........ bad...........boy..........." She accentuated each word with a poke of her fingernail into the heart of his chest. "I'm late now, so move it."
She gave his head a rough shake and walked away. He wanted to chase her down but he didn't have the strength. His arms and legs were suddenly heavy. It was like cold lead was being poured through a hole in the top of his head, anchoring him to the living room floor. He could hear her tromp up the stairs. He made his way after her, one planted, unsteady step at a time until he was finally able to grip the rail at the foot of the stairs. Once there, he flew up the stairs with the speed and agility of a barn swallow. He swept through each room with his eyes, looking for her. He found her in her bedroom. Her back was turned to him. He could feel his lips pull up to expose his teeth. His breath came quickly now in short, violent bursts. He bulled his way into her room and stood behind her, panting. She turned around to face him. She was much older now. Her face was worn and wrinkled. His body towered over her. He brought his hand up to strike her but he stopped himself. His shoulders slumped in and his hands fell to his side. She smiled at him and his heart disintegrated in his chest. He began to convulsively vomit, "helpmehelpmehelpmehelpmehelpmehelpmehelpmehelpmehelpmehelpmehelpme- helpmehelpmehelpmehelpmehelpmehelpmhelpmehelpmehelpme......."
"Son, she whispered."
He stopped himself and looked down on her beaming face.
"You know Steven, sometimes it's okay to cry."
He woke up in an instant, sucking for air. His hair was matted to his forehead, his mouth dry. He looked around the room. The early morning sunlight spilled into their bedroom and bathed it in plush gold and luxurious yellow. His wife stirred beside him.
"What's wrong Steven," she moaned, her eyes still shut.
"I just had a dream, that's all," he replied.
"Oh yeah? Was it a good one or a bad one?"
"I don't know, it was just a dream. Forget it," he said, getting irritated with her.
"I tell you all about my dreams. You have to tell me about yours. I didn't think you had dreams anyway."
"None that are worth talking about," he said, trying to put an end to their conversation.
"Oh, come on Steven, don't be like that, she pleaded. "Just tell me." She was fully awake now and leaning towards him, her head propped up on her hand. Her eyes were still sleepy and red.
"It was weird. I was a kid again at our old house. At one point I was in the living room talking to my mom, and the next minute I'm in her bedroom talking to her. But when I was in the bedroom I was me, I mean the way I am now."
"That doesn't sound too weird to me. What did she say?"
"I can't remember."
"Yes you can, you just woke up. Please tell me what she said to you."
"She said...," he caught himself before saying it and slipped out of the bed.
"Where are you going?" she asked. "You didn't finish."
He stopped in the doorway, his back to her.
"She said that it was okay to cry," and he did. He couldn't stop himself. It rolled off him like dead skin. He ran into the bathroom to try to hide his embarrassment and humiliation from his wife. Steven searched the room frantically for something to quell the uncontrollable surge. "Stop it Steven," he heard her say. The words echoed softly from within the well of his mind. "You're a big boy now, aren't you Steven? What would your father think? Everything is going to be all right, you'll see. Promise me you won't let daddy see you like this. He'd be so disappointed."
Steven sobbed out loud and threw his hands over his ears and pushed in with all his might. He had to stop this immediately. He wanted to reach into the bathtub and stuff the stopper down his throat to choke off the flood. He collapsed onto the toilet and yanked a towel from its perch. He stuffed as much of it as he could into his mouth and wrapped the cotton shroud around his head and wailed into it like a man trying both to remember and to forget.
Copyright ©1999 Glynn Sharpe. All Rights Reserved.
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